I spotted my first seersucker this week, a non-traditional blueberry blue striped blazer. Worn by an individual all white shoed and wrinkle-free linen-ed, the outfit practically screamed, summer-in- the-city. It’s summer in the bakery walk-in, too. Valuable metro shelving real estate is overcrowded with flats and flats of early blueberries. Upon close inspection, the berries suggest the slightest hint of early June. More blue than green, every third or fourth plump berry almost tastes the way we want blueberries to taste. As is, they’re fine tucked into a coffeecake beneath a crown of brown sugar streusel, or dotting Sunday morning pancakes doused in dark amber maple syrup. I want the blueberries rolling every which way across the butcher block to taste like pie, but they don’t. Not yet.
Blueberry pie is hard to do well. A contradiction of flavors teetering between sweet and tart, blueberry pie longs to resonate with the flavor of berries plucked by the handful, still warm from the sun and dropped kerplunk into a pail. The blueberries smiling from their green corrugated containers at the farmer’s market require attention to detail, watchful eyes and nimble fingers to orchestrate stem/faulty berry removal.
The blueberries stacked dangerously high in the walk-in are needy berries, risky pie business. Not yet sweet, not yet tasting of summer, the blueberries staring back at me are notoriously fickle, demanding the right amount of sweetness, the perfect combination of thickener, spice, and zest. Heavy handed with the sugar only masks the taste of the fruit. Overkill with the thickener and the berries hang on to each other for dear life, resulting in a slice that refuses to puddle on the plate. Too shy with the thickener means I worry.
Blueberry pie enthusiasts love to talk about the perfect blueberry pie experience. What they never talk about is the waiting period, the time required by a hot-out-of-the-oven pie to settle down, find its footing, before facing the knife. Folks hell bent on slicing into a still warm blueberry pie have a totally different experience from those who wait a little longer. I hate to point fingers, but I’m looking at you, lady in brand new Madewell skinny jeans in ‘Pure White.’ Sure, I'm happy to recommend a good dry cleaner in the area.
The dream blueberry pie from a home kitchen covets a dimpled, earthenware pie plate lined with a butter rich piecrust. Berries spiked with just enough sugar, just enough lemon zest, and the right pinch of Vietnamese cinnamon are blanketed in an intricate lattice top. Painted in pastry brush strokes of egg wash and gilded with a generous sprinkle of sanding sugar, the pie bakes up beautifully, bubbling in all the right places. Optional yet preferable to the experience are a pair of pristine oven mitts recently purchased from Anthropologie. Any old oven mitts will do, but overpriced oven mitts seem de rigueur for escorting the pie out of the oven and on to the vintage cooling rack snagged at a yard sale for an exorbitant price.
My work reality features blueberry pies bubbling furiously (sometimes dangerously) through their woven lattice, adhering to parchment paper lined sheet pans, leaving streaks of blue-violet where I am least likely to notice. Our blueberry pie food memories conjure forks shattering a blistery crust, a tumble of warm berries, a swirl of blue-violet against melting vanilla ice cream. When you get it right, it is one of the greatest joys of summer. When you think you can do better, you open the door to the walk-in and try again. And if it’s a really good day, one of your co-workers will let you know you have streaks of blueberry on your face before you head out the door.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm